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What Does Data Center Decommissioning Entail?


Decommissioning a data center is a complex task, not a daunting one. It encompasses several stages that cover various systems and components while maintaining compliance with the local regulations, industry standards, and best practices. Despite sharing the same basic approach, each data center decommissioning project is a special case in itself. The reason for it is simple – each data center features diverse pieces of hardware, all of which require special processes for their proper decommissioning. Still, it’s worthy to take a look at the general stages that make up each data center decommissioning process.

Taking Inventory

After you pick out a decommissioning service provider, its personnel will assist you with getting rid of the hardware and systems that have been operational at your data center. The decommissioning needs to be secure and cover both on-site and off-site activities if needed.

The process starts with preparing a full inventory of all assets at your data center. This will help you and your service provider discover stuff such as “undead” servers, disused cabling, or redundant sub-systems. In addition to learning more about your equipment, you’ll discover what apps are being used on each device. Finally, the inventory will help you discover what types of sensitive data are kept as part of what system and how its treatment should be in the decommissioning process.

In any case, no device found at a data center will be left behind when it comes to being documented, from a server and router to IoT systems and switches. The inventory data on them can include the device name and model, IP address, vendor name, storage resources, operating systems, etc.  

Mapping and Verification

Armed with the equipment inventory, it’s time to get cracking with a full-blown decommissioning work. This starts with drafting a hardware and process map, with a detailed description of all stages of deinstallation, physical removal, data destruction, and the disposition/recycling/retiring of each IT asset.

The plan includes the description of each team member and manager in charge of performing individual tasks. In addition, this plan will specify the safety measures to be undertaken during the decommissioning operation, as well as details describing who wears protective equipment, who is in charge of unplugging the devices, etc.

Physical Removal

The launch of the actual decommissioning procedure might require prior testing or simulation. In addition to helping the provider with the tasks to come, it gives you a clear overview of the functionality of the equipment you want to decommission.  After this, all of the IT assets are disconnected from the network and grid installations. This is followed by the physical removal of equipment hosted on racks, rails, or in special housing. This process is supported by detailed record-keeping on every activity undertaken for the sake of having access to comprehensive documentation after the procedure has been completed.

The assets are then packed, palleted, and loaded onto transport vehicles. This is done by observing the state-of-the-art packaging and shipping/transport standards that protect the assets from both harm and tampering during the transport.  

Data Center Liquidation

Quality providers can offer you a data center liquidation service as part of the contracted decommissioning work. This includes relying on a network of partner organizations that can help you resell/remarket your IT assets and extract the maximum value out of them even at the end of their life cycle. To give you peace of mind, these decommissioning service providers will give you access to independent audits to confirm their compliance with the existing regulations that govern the decommissioning and data center liquidation processes.

Quality providers should make this type of service available irrespective of the size of the data center, the scope of the liquidation operation, or the type of equipment involved. Also, the scope of provided tasks should include the support for infrastructure removal, bulk storage asset cleanups, shredding, degaussing, followed by the refurbishing and resale of the equipment. Equipment deemed unsuitable for resale can be stripped down to its components or recycled for raw materials.

All of this serves to make you understand that data center liquidation is not a simple process that starts with pulling the plugs and ends with unloading trucks at a landfill. As all data centers and their operators come with their own sets of individual challenges, thorough preparation and synergistic cooperation between a client and a provider are the cornerstones of each decommissioning operation.

Safe and Compliant Data Destruction

Apart from the logistics, data center decommissioning has yet another essential facet – security. This does not only refer to the physical security involved with the safe deinstallation and transport of the physical components. It often has to do with a less visible but no less important segment involving the sanitization of data stored on dedicated data center devices. Professionally managed data destruction is a key prerequisite for remarketing or repurposing your IT assets and extracting the final drop of value from their service.   

Data center commissioning providers need to ensure complete protection against the recoverability of the cleaned data from the storage devices. This includes deletion, overwriting, wiping, destruction, shredding, or any other process that makes your sensitive information irrecoverable even with the help of specialized tools.

 The key thing to remember here is to check the credentials of your decommissioning service provider that needs to provide you with evidence of the successful track record with working with various types and formats of data centers and the associated hardware they use.